Sonntag, 28. Januar 2018

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2017

 Hello there puny humans,
once again it is time to sit down and recap the year of 2017. It was really tough. There have been a lot of great movies this year and I had a hard time deciding which movies I wanted to keep in the list and which I could let go. Because I am basing this on German release dates, Oscar-winning movies like La La Land were still in the run but films like The Shape of Water weren't yet. Also I unfortunately missed the critically acclaimed Get Out. I thought about catching it on DVD before starting this article, but since creating this list was already hard enough, I decided not to.
My rating system is composed of cinematic craftsmanship, fulfillment of potential, rewatchability factor, entertainment value and how the film touched me emotionally aka. personal preference. Even though it's kind of a cop-out considering the title, I will also briefly touch on my honorable mentions (in no particular order) just because I believe that these film definitely need recognition:

MOONLIGHT: This was not only an incredibly important, but also an incredibly well made film. It is a tender exploration of race and sexual identity with outstanding performances by every one involved.

SPLIT: This claustrophobic thriller was a brilliant comeback for M. Night Shyamalan. With fantastic visual story-telling and a masterclass performance by McAvoy, this film could have easily made my top ten. It loses a few points however for associating Dissociative Identity Disorder with criminal behaviour.

STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII - THE LAST JEDI: My most anticipated film of the year doesn't quite make the cut. Why? Well, I certainly thought the highs in The Last Jedi were incredibly high, but as of now, I'm still torn about some other elements. I think I need some time to completely make up my mind about this film.

WONDER WOMAN: Who doesn't love Gal Gadot? Men want to marry her and women want to be her. Heck, I also want to be her! This film was near to a perfect superhero origin story, with a sincerity and seriousness that I have been missing in some of the latest comic-book outing. It was only the CGI-heavy third act that kind of took it down a few spots.

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI: One of the best kids movies I've ever seen. This film (of that I thought it was going to be a childish borefest) literally brought tears to my eyes. It tells tales of terrible fates in such an innocent way that it breaks your heart over and over again. Children won't get the darkness of this film, even though it is hidden in plain sight and so adults will have a very different viewing experience. Certainly worth your time.

And now, without further ado, let's dive into the Top 10:

My number ten spot goes to the movie that was a breath of fresh air in the genre of romantic comedies. It is based on the actual life of main actor and screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani, and it really shows: The Big Sick is multilayered and absolutely genuine. The film is more than a love story as it also heavily features topics like the cultural barriers (including racism in both directions), recovering from setbacks and what it's like to try to build a career in show business. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan have great chemistry and are two endlessly charming main characters. But also the supporting cast is on the top of their game with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter leading the way. This film is funny, sad, heart-warming and even gets you thinking a couple of times. Because when characters argue, you can usually understand where both sides are coming from and that they actually have a point. It just shows how great the writing is! The Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay is well-deserved.

I have expressed my love for the webslinger multiple times in my articles. Naturally I was curious to see what this third cinematic incarnation of the character had to offer. I was not disappointed. It was a blast! I've always loved the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films from the early 2000s, because they tell such a classic and inspiring super-hero story. Spider-Man: Homecoming however, captures the feeling you get from reading a Spidey comic like no other film has. Tom Holland is perfectly cast and is able to play both, Peter Parker an Spider-Man, flawlessly. This film had everything you need in a film about the wallcrawler: action, humor and, most importantly, a lot of heart. Even though they took the character to high school for the third time, the movie managed to stay fresh. Director Jon Watts recreated the magic of a John Hughes film and the fantastic Michael Keaton gave us one of Marvel Studios' best villains. That subtle but creepy scene in the car was amazing. I didn't think a Spider-Man movie could still have that much juice in it. This was popcorn entertainment at its best.

8. "LION"
This February release tells the awe-inspiring true story is about a little boy, Saroo, who gets separated from his family in India as child. Shortly after, he is adopted and moves to Australia. But losing his family haunts him for all the years to come and so after 20 years he decides to find them despite having as little information as you possibly can. The first half of the film is set in India and features an incredibly heart-wrenching performance by the eight-year old Sunny Pawar. Having lived in India for four month, I have witnessed the cruel reality of street children with my own eyes and so I found this part of the film extremely engulfing. The second half of the film shows Saroo as a grown man. Among other things this part explores his struggle with cultural identity and what it feels like to look Indian, but not know a whole lot about that country. As someone who has a similar relationship with his heritage, I could completely empathize with the character. Needless to say, this film really resonated with me on a deeply personal level.

Unlike most other war movies, Christopher Nolan tells this story in an unconventionally impersonal way. This took a little bit of getting used to in the beginning, but once I accepted that, I was in for a unique cinematic ride. Nolan proved to me once again that he is one of the greatest directors working at the moment. Like a conductor of an orchestra he has an incredible oversight over every element of his project, manages to use each of those elements to its fullest potential and combine all of them in a way that creates a perfect harmony. Dunkirk was an amazing demonstration of his cinematic craftsmanship. The cinematography, the score, the sound-design, everything was working in unison to fully captivate the viewer. Additionally, the way the different stories were intertwined made sure that I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My heart would bleed if I ever saw someone watch this movie on an airplane or on their phone. This film was made for the big screen!

6. "MOTHER!"
I'll be honest with you, watching mother! made me feel really uncomfortable. When the end credits of this film started rolling my initial thought was: "What the f**k did I just watch?". Back then I would have never thought about watching it again, let alone putting it in my Top 10. But the more I thought about this film the more I started loving it. In a way, this film represents the very essence of cinema itself. The images stick with you, its themes make you think and it starts a vivid conversation. And these things apply even if you didn't like the film. This really seems like it was a personal passion project for Aronofsky. I was put in awe by the unbridled and raw creative vision I was witnessing and it felt like had just stepped into Aronofsky's mind just when he was starting to have a wild feverish dream. But this movie is not great because of sheer shock value, it actually makes a hard-hitting commentary on humanity. Furthermore, this movie impresses with strong leading performances and a masterful direction. Disturbing? Yes! But also a fantastic piece of motion picture art.

I praised the previous two films for their artistic value and highly competent direction. My number five spot - Baby Driver - can most definitely join the ranks of them, although tonally this is vastly different film. Once again Edgar Wright proves that just because a movie is full of fun and action, that doesn't mean it can't be an impressive display of creativity. The way that he utilizes the soundtrack is ingenious. Not only do the songs match the action, they are also an extension of our main character's emotions. Their tempo, their mood and their lyrics all serve as a door to Baby's inner life. And if that wasn't enough for you, Wright also plays with the color schemes, adds clever foreshadowing and pays homage to old-school Hollywood crime stories. In my initial review I called this film a meticulously crafted, brilliantly edited and perfectly cast music-video-motion-picture-hybrid. And half a year later I still agree 100%. But before I run out of positive words to use, I'll just say: Damn, what a ride!

This film was released over a year ago in mid-January and yet, I still find myself randomly going "Ba-ba-da-ba da-ba-da-ba-ba..." to the tune of Another Day of Sun in my head. Coming to Germany with a lot of momentum after breaking Golden Globes records, La la Land soon experienced some backlash, because audience thought to themselves: "Wait, this is what all the fuss is about? A romantic musical?" But to me, this movie was much more than that. Yes it's true that on the surface this looks like a typical boy-meets-girl story and it's not like Gosling and Stone's dancing and singing was unparalleled or something. But if you just dive a little bit deeper into this film you'll find something truly special. A love letter to the golden age of cinema, a perfect blend of escapism and realism, a deconstruction of postmodernism and over all, just fantastic film making. I had loads of fun with the charming performances, the catchy songs, the playful set-design, the elaborate lighting and the beautiful shots. After this and the fantastic movie Whiplash, I will watch anything that Damien Chazelle puts out next!

I am not too fond of German cinema. Not because of a lack of quality, but because of a lack of variety. There are very few real genre films in Germany (like fantasy epics, horror movies or science fiction films) and directors don't seem eager to use a distinct visual style in their film. Fatih Akin is different however. As a film maker he doesn't hide in the shadow of a good story. He elevates his stories through his directorial voice. In The Fade (original title: Aus dem Nichts) is his best work so far. This film captivated me from start to finish. I was amazed how many emotions Akin could solely through images and it reminded of Martin Scorsese's early work. But not only Akin was on the top of his game. Leading lady Diane Kruger was astonishing and I am still scratching my head over the fact that she didn't get an acting nomination at the Oscars. This whole film was an incredibly real portrayal of loss, grief, hopelessness and anger. Deeply personal and endlessly thrilling - I had my heart in my mouth for the entire last 20 minutes of the film.

2. "LOGAN"
After X-Men: Apocalypse came out in theaters, I was convinced that the X-Men franchise was dead. And now, here I am with its latest entry in my number two spot. No doubt, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine has always been the best part of these films, but even his first solo movie was terrible. But Logan blew me away. It was such a mature way to tell a superhero story, with a patient narrative style, well-rounded meaningful themes and more than a few moments of sincere vulnerability. And yet, there was still plenty of room for breathtaking and brutal action. In a time where I was sick of almost every blockbuster stuffing itself with self-aware comedy, this comic-book movie dared too take itself seriously. Extracting the characters from a generic superhero story-line and inserting them into a neo-western road movie was another great choice that made Logan so unique. This film looked and felt different, and I thought that was absolutely fantastic. On top of that, the film features Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart's best performance in the franchise, as well as newcomer Dafne Keen, a thirteen year-old actress that was able to match Jackman in emotional power and sheer badassery. Finally, Wolverine's last line in the film was one of the best character moments in comic-book movie history. And Logan is one of the best superhero films of all time!

1. "BLADE RUNNER 2049"
Dennis Villeneuve is an exceptional talent! After impressing audiences and critics with Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners, he has now created his personal masterpiece. First of all, Blade Runner 2049 is simply a f**king gorgeous film! I want it in a picture frame on my living room wall. These beautiful wide shots combined with flawless visual effects, superb lighting and artistic coloring gave me (and excuse my language here) multiple eye-gasms. But wait, there’s more! Not only is Blade Runner 2049 visually stunning, but it is a perfect cerebral science-fiction thriller as well. Villeneuve respectfully built on the world that the first Blade Runner created. And by broadening its world he was also able to broaden the themes and so he poses multiple questions at the same time. As a sci-fi fan you can find shades of many different films of the genre here, such as Ghost In The Shell, Her, Inception and Ex Machina.
All of this contributed to the film completely sucking me in. Instead of a screening room, I had stepped into a time machine and was transported to the year 2049 in an alternate dimension. It was a completely immersive experience. No virtual reality needed! This is one of these extremely rare arthouse-blockbuster hybrids that has as much of an entertainment factor as it has artistic value. I would even dare to say that it is better than the original.

So that’s my „Top 10“ list for 2017. There were a ton of amazing films and it was hard to chose, but the longer I look at this list, the more happy I am with it. But what did you think? Do you agree or disagree? Are you one of the many people who skipped my number one choice when it was theaters? Did you wonder why Thor: Ragnarok didn’t make the cut? Feel free to comment below! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the full reviews for my top 10 choices that you can find on this blog.

Your Cinemartian


  1. I like most of your choices, but could you give a more detailed reason for "Moonlight" not to be in your Top10? For me atleast a "Top 3 movie" in 2017.

  2. Good point. I had shuffled these movies around multiple times and at some points "Moonlight" was included. To be honest I just kind of went with my guts on this one. If I had taken my personal opinion out it and just judged the movies by content and craftsmanship, "Moonlight" would probably have been up there. But I had a personal connection to the characters and themes of films like "La La Land", "Lion", "The Big Sick" or "Logan" and so they just resonated more on an emotional level.
    I also looked at how much of a film stuck with me after seeing it and even though I saw Moonlight twice, the other films seemed to have made a little bit bigger of an impression on me. As I said it's kind of subjective. If anyone put "Moonlight" higher up on their list or even on the number one spot, I couldn't argue against that. At least not objectively.
    That's why I definitely wanted to include it in my honorable mentions, but couldn't really give valid points of criticism to justify not putting it in my top ten.
    Anyways, thanks for the comment and presenting your "disagreement" in such a respectful way. :) I hope my answer was somewhat satisfying. Keep watching great movies!

    Your Cinemartian